Saturday's Spring Game Part 1 - The Offense

Mississippi State head football coach Dan Mullen wanted to see how the quarterbacks competed in the Maroon-White game. He got his answer as one of them, Chris Relf, seemed to get a leg up on his freshmen counterpart, Tyler Russell, during Saturday's spring game.

Quarterback Battle

The quarterback battle coming into the spring game was pretty close to even with neither Relf nor Russell taking control of the position. The spring game changed things a bit as Relf gained some momentum heading into the summer.

Chris Relf had a big day, displaying his improved accuracy with a 13-24 performance and two touchdowns. Relf showed pinpoint accuracy on some passes, especially on the first touchdown pass to Brandon Heavens, leading him perfectly into the corner of the end zone. He also showed good command of the huddle and poise in the pocket.

Tyler Russell didn't have the day the fanbase hoped for only, connecting on 12-27 with no touchdowns. Russell struggled on the day finding it hard to find a rhythm behind the mostly second-team offensive line.

Overall, the fanbase didn't get exactly what they wanted from the quarterback position in the spring game but got what they needed in Relf. Relf has turned into a leader and the player the fanbase can get behind next year.

Spring Breakdown: Chris Relf should get the underdog award because no one was in his corner coming into the spring. The fans and media were ready to start the Tyler Russell Era but Chris Relf had something to say about that. Relf has gained the upper hand coming out of the spring and if he continues at the rate he's on now he could be poised to have a big year.

Tyler Russell didn't have the spring many were hoping for but he did improve. He displayed better leadership ability and matured as a quarterback. He is a good number two quarterback but not ready at this point to lead an SEC team. The summer and fall practice will be critical for Russell's development and preparation toward next season.

Running Backs

The competition at the running back position was highly contested over the course of the spring. Vick Ballard came to the forefront after a few weeks and continued his strong play with a big Maroon-White game.

Ballard had 73 yards on 14 carries with one touchdown. Ballard showed the fans at Davis-Wade Saturday what he has shown all spring, great burst, vision, and leg drive. Ballard looked like a true number one back.

Montrell Conner (a player to watch), after being hobbled the whole spring, impressed with 60 yards on 9 carries. Conner definitely showed the ability many thought he had when the Bulldogs signed him in 2009.

Adrian Marcus, a walk on running back, deserves special mention with 35 yards on eight carries.

LaDarius Perkins and Robert Elliot had eight carries between them.

Spring Breakdown: The running back position developed the way the coaches would like over the spring. They found a number one back in Ballard, a complementary guy in Elliot, a scat back in Perkins, and another power back in Conner. Marcus could be a sleeper in the running back competition.

Wide Receivers

The development of the receiving core was the surprise of the spring with Brandon Heavens, Chris Smith, and Ricco Sanders improving over the course of spring practice. They didn't play great in the spring game but did show some of the ability that could make the wide receiving core strong.

Heavens had the biggest day of all the receivers with four catches for 63 yards and a touchdown.

Chad Bumphis looked good also with three catches and 45 yards, including a nice run off a bubble screen. Bumphis also took a few handoffs, something he could be doing a lot of next season.

Arceto Clark (a player to watch) only had one catch but it was an impressive jumping snare on a post route across the middle. I expected him to play some defense but the coaches elected not to play him both ways.

Spring Breakdown: The receiving core became a two-deep unit with Bumphis, Berry, and Smith as the H-Back, X, and Z receivers respectively. Heavens, Sanders, and Bailey look like solid backups with Clark possibly getting in the mix in the fall. The depth of the position could be increased by the addition of incoming freshmen Michael Carr, Robert Johnson, and Malcolm Johnson.

Tight Ends

The tight end spot was one of the strongest headed into the spring with Marcus Green and Kendrick Cook both being capable starters. Brandon Henderson took advantage of extra reps created by Thomas Webb's injury. They continued to show why they are one of strongest units in spring game combining for nine catches and 103 yards and a touchdown.

Marcus Green may be the starter but he didn't have a strong spring struggling to catch the ball consistently.

Kendrick Cook was the best overall best tight throughout the spring, looking good catching the ball and blocking.

Brandon Henderson caught the ball very well throughout the spring and definitely earned extra playing time next season. He still needs to improve his blocking but he does add to the depth at the position.

Spring Breakdown: I would not be surprised at all if they are listed co-number ones when the post-spring depth chart is released.

Offensive Line

The offensive line was probably one of the most disappointing units development-wise as they came into the spring game with the same problems as they came into spring practice with, lack of across the board depth.

The Maroon line consisted mostly of the first team offensive line and it showed as the Maroon running backs had good days and Relf had time to throw.

The White line, other than Tobias Smith, struggled in pass protection and the coaches elected not to run Robert Elliot and LaDarius Perkins much behind them.

Spring Breakdown: O-line Coach John Hevesy is probably not happy with where the offensive line stands right now with basically no depth at tackle. The guard position has adequate backups in Gabe Jackson and Mark Melichar. Center is probably the most solid position with J.C. Brignone, D.J. Looney, and Sam Watts. The best hope right now is that Jeff Howie or one of the freshmen come in and provide more depth.

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Jeremiah Short is a columnist who covers various Mississippi State sports for GenesPage.com. He can be reached by email at moot2005@yahoo.com


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